Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Olympic medals for Rowing Blues

It's often been said that rowing Blues (those who have competed in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race) are comparable to oarsmen of international stature. A look at our recent Olympic record suggests why this is so. 

The coxless four that took Britain’s third successive Gold on Saturday included three Blues: Oxford’s Pete Reed (2005) and Andy Triggs-Hodge (2005) and bowman Tom James, the former Cambridge oarsman (2003, 2005, 2006 & 2007). (Tom, incidentally, plays a major role in The Last Amateurs as President of the CUBC.)

The British crew that took silver in the Men’s Eight included Cambridge Blues Josh West (1998, 1999, 2000 & 2001) and Tom Stallard (1999, 2000, 2001 & 2002), Oxford’s Colin Smith (2004 & 2006) and was steered by Dark Blue cox Acer Nethercott (2003, 2004 & 2005). They were beaten by an impressive Canadian boat that featured another Oxford Blue, Jake Wetzel (2006).

What makes these athletes so fascinating? Is it their invincibility? Their god-like nature? Their unrelenting commitment to physical hardship? Or is it something else altogether? 

I wonder if, rather than their invincibility, it is perhaps their humanity that binds our fate to theirs. After all, they are so very like us. Their achievements may be Phelpsian to be sure but that's not what makes them a source of fascination. Rather, it is that they are, like us, vulnerable: flawed, irritable, intolerant, impatient, insecure. Lovable.

(A good source of Boat Race information is found at www.theboatrace.org)

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